In a vote few individuals had been conscious of till final week, the Travis County Commissioners Courtroom rejected the town of Austin’s provide to buy the historic Swante Palm College constructing on the japanese fringe of downtown.
Neighborhood activists, who for years have advocated preserving the varsity to honor its Mexican American historical past, weren’t conscious of the commissioners’ June 15 vote till late final week, when the county formally notified the town in a letter dated June 22. Metropolis Supervisor Spencer Cronk had despatched the provide letter in February 2020.
Now the county is ready to contemplate the restoration and redevelopment of Palm College at its assembly on Tuesday. The agenda merchandise features a workers suggestion to promote or lease the constructing and to redevelop the northern parcel of the tract.
The information comes as a blow to many in Austin’s Latino neighborhood who’ve wished the varsity to switch to metropolis fingers and stay a public area. “We’ve got been fully blindsided by all that’s taken place,” neighborhood organizer Paul Saldaña mentioned, including that the county and metropolis haven’t been fully clear about this newest motion in regards to the college, probably the most important repositories of Mexican American tradition within the japanese fringe of downtown.
The commissioners’ June 15 agenda language appeared imprecise and didn’t point out Palm College because the parcel of land to be thought-about in govt session. As such, the agenda merchandise and the choice largely flew below the radar till final week. Moreover, the proposal to construct a brand new girls’s jail was on the identical assembly agenda and garnered a lot of the neighborhood’s consideration and media protection.
Council Member Kathie Tovo has lengthy championed the town’s buy of the varsity for restoration and preservation and he or she led on initiating a planning course of that will tie collectively parks and different essential cornerstones of this part of downtown. The varsity is situated in District 9, which Tovo represents.
“I used to be dissatisfied after all that our preliminary provide was rejected, however I’m completely decided to proceed to maneuver ahead with the chance to probably collaborate with Travis County,” Tovo mentioned final week. “The neighborhood is extraordinarily supportive of seeing Palm College stay in public fingers and seeing the constructing preserved and used for an lively public objective. Having it probably go into personal fingers (for redevelopment) could be extraordinarily detrimental, for my part. It will actually curtail alternatives to do some great placemaking and planning methods.”
The commissioners’ motion comes simply as the town has kicked off the Palm District Planning Initiative as a part of an endeavor to create extra connectivity in an space that features Palm College, Rainey Road (as soon as house to many Latino households), the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Middle, Waller Creek, the Purple River Cultural District, and the Austin Conference Middle. The planning district is sure north and south by fifteenth Road and Woman Chicken Lake, and east and west by Interstate 35 and Trinity Road.
The county’s rejection of the town’s provide throws yet one more wrench into the town’s long-running plans to acquire management of the varsity, or as a minimum, kind a partnership with the county to make sure Palm College stays in public fingers for public use. The rejection additionally provides one other bullet level within the construction’s more and more prolonged timeline of occasions relating to the town and county’s on-again, off-again bargaining course of.
Nonetheless, a $10 million provide is taken into account a lowball determine given the downtown actual property growth and the constructing’s $30 million-$50 million appraisal.
Commissioner Margaret Gómez, who grew up in Austin and is thought to be the purpose particular person on the varsity’s destiny, mentioned she made the movement to reject the town’s provide as a result of the property is price far more than $10 million. “We don’t know what the appraisal goes to be now that each one properties are being appraised once more.”
Promoting the varsity for $10 million, Gómez mentioned, “could be like making an attempt to provide away an asset. I nonetheless choose that the county keep that asset in order that we are able to have one thing to take to the desk. The town owns Palm Park behind the varsity, and to me, that’s a great indication that we may very well be companions.
“I do know it’s on a really costly nook, and I do know builders actually need to get it to do another issues, however to me it’s a historic constructing and it has a beautiful historical past going all the best way again to the 1800s. There’s an actual, actual sturdy tie to the Mexican American neighborhood and it has loads of historic worth, so in my thoughts it’s a Travis County asset and I believe it might result in a greater partnership with the town.”
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